As a police officer I lived by the code of being there for your brother or sister officer. One of the greatest comforts when the proverbial stuff is about to hit the fan is the sound of police sirens growing increasingly louder during a potentially dangerous situation. For far to many officers some disasters strike seemingly without warning. This was the case for me in July 2018. At that time during some workout sessions I started feeling some discomfort in my chest and went and had it checked out. Long story short (I will share more of this story at a later date), I had 3 blockages in the arteries of my heart and needed immediate triple bypass surgery. Fortunately I did not have a heart attack and suffered no damage to my heart. I did need to go through two months of cardiac rehab in order to gain my stamina back. Today I feel much better, however there is a mental aspect to recovery that is taking much too long for my liking. For many coronary patients there is a type of depression that occurs following surgery. I along with other open heart surgery patients felt as if our bodies let us down. That when we needed it, it wasn’t there for us. Our health failed and therefore our confidence moving forward has failed. The truth for me was that I let my heart and body down.
On a recent visit to the cardiologist he told me that cardiac blockages, or coronary artery disease has seemingly plagued humanity for many millennia and didn’t start with today’s’ greasy fast food. I researched this topic and found out that this was true (I’m funny like that, needing to verify what even a DR says, LOL) and that coronary artery disease is preventable in some people. This information got me to thinking more about my own habits. Truth be told I was a little overweight for my height and my blood pressure was elevated. I did work out a few days a week and did not eat fried foods, but my diet was certainly not pristine.
After my bypass surgery I was looking for some music to go along with exercise routines. I came across some military cadences. One of my favorites is one by the Marines called 1,2,3,4 US Marine Corps found on Youtube. The beginning of lyrics start ” Ah pump me up, Don’t let me down!”…….. For the longest time those words stayed with me. I thought about those lyrics day and night. The drill sergeant wants his cadets to be strong and ready for battle. In order to be ready for battle one must take care of their body and mind, before the battle. Military and police officers need their cohorts to be in their best shape and ready to handle what ever situation is presented. The truth of the matter is I did not do ALL that I could have done to make sure I was ready for battle. What if another officer needed my help? When my adrenaline started to flow would my heart and arteries been able to handle the stress? Fortunately I was not in that situation, however the life long lesson is clear. Take care of your body today and it will take care of you tomorrow.
Having gone through this process, mentally, I experience good days and bad days. Since my surgery my heart beat seems so much louder than before. I can hear it now even while watching TV. When I’m laying down, trying to drift off to sleep I often think to myself that I let my heart down. Not staying in the best of shape, eating foods I know I shouldn’t and then saying to myself “it’s OK, I will workout an extra day or extra hard this week”. That thinking and activities almost cost me my life. Not only my heart, but I almost let down my wife, daughter, son (who’s in the Airforce) and step son.
I’m here to today because I listened to my body and got checked out. I’m developing a new outlook on life and making a commitment to not letting my loves ones down. They need me and I need them. To all military, police, corrections officer, firefighters, EMT’s and all citizens, don’t let your companions down. Be there for them and start today. Change destructive habits, go for a walk, do some push-ups, squats and sit-ups during commercials while watching TV, quit smoking, cut back on the drinking. And to my little buddy, my heart, I won’t let you down.